Christmas Eve Homily 2006
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Few sights are as stunningly beautiful as a rose. We can be walking along and suddenly freeze in our tracks, captured by the beauty of a rose.

Few sensations are as painful as a rose’s thorns. It’s easy to be so enamored with a rose’s beauty that we forget the danger, and instinctively reach out to take hold of its stem, much to our dismay.

This rose/thorn combination is often used as a metaphor – “every life has thorns” – to describe bittersweet situations. Bittersweet – few words better describe what we are commemorating here tonight.

Sweet is the birth of our Savior. He will live a life as lovely as a rose. Bitter is the death of our Savior, the cross He moves toward. He will die a death as painful as a thorn.

A poet wrote words fit for God’s Rose, “Majestic Sweetness sits enthroned upon the Savior’s brow.” But soldiers, to mock Him, made a crown of sharp, painful, thorns and stabbed it into the blessed brow of Jesus our Rose.

Do we remember the origin of thorns? They were not in the original creation. They were added later, due to our sin in the Garden of Eden. After the first sin, God said the ground would henceforth produce thorns (Genesis 3:18).

Had Adam and Eve not sinned, there would have never been thorns. They picture in Nature the pain sins bring in the spiritual realm. The crown of thorns the soldiers forced on Jesus’ head pictured His bearing the sins of the world.

Blood flowed from the Rose. Each drop of it bought for us eternity in Heaven, a crown of glory, and everything that is good. Jesus our beautiful Rose bore the thorns. He covered all the sins of the world, including yours and mine.

Isaac Watts set this imagery to music. We sing his words every Christmas, but I fear we overlook their deep meaning. Please turn to Hymn 87. Let’s say aloud verse 3. Focus on the meaning of these words.
No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found.